Lance Davis Candidate for Ward 6 Alderman Responses 2015

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1) If elected, what steps will you take to keep residents in Ward 6 informed about the municipal decisions, issues, and proposed changes that affect them: legislation and budgetary matters, proposed development, decisions by City officials, issues that surface from the community, etc.

LD: It is critical to include all stakeholders in developments occurring in the city and I will ensure that the city to hears the concerns of Ward 6 residents. As an active member of the community for over 14 years, I see, firsthand, the value of personal relationships and I commit to maintaining open communication channels with residents and working to bring ideas and concerns to the city early in the process. I will publish letters in local Somerville media outlets, post updates on my website and Facebook, and use emails and phone calls to ensure the residents of Ward 6 are aware of issues and policies that directly affect them. In addition, historically, the Davis Square Task Force helped to facilitate this type of exchange of information and input from community members. I am open to exploring the possibility of reviving a community group of this sort, whether that be through the Davis Action Group, a “new” Davis Square Task Force, or some other format. I believe that our people of Ward 6 will benefit from an increased exchange of information on the issues that affect our neighborhoods.

a) What steps, if any, should the City take -- and what steps will you take, if elected -- to provide access to information and services to Somerville residents who have limited English proficiency?

LD: Somerville’s many vibrant and active communities contribute immensely to the City and help shape its rich character. The City must ensure that all residents have access to the information and resources they need, regardless of the language in which they communicate. Through Progress Together for Somerville, we worked with other community groups, such as The Welcome Project, to increase access to information relating to Somerville schools for parents with limited English proficiency, so that they could more fully participate in their children’s education. I will be a strong advocate for convenient and effective translation services and regular review of the languages in which information is communicated to residents through automated phone calls, online, and in print. It is imperative that all residents of Somerville have up-to-date Information and feel welcomed and confident that the City has their specific needs in mind. We could also pass Municipal ID legislation to provide services and benefits to those communities who have historically been fearful of using community services for lack of proper ID and difficulty in communication. This legislation, publicized in different languages, would simultaneously benefit these communities and the city.

2) What kinds of changes would you like to see in the nature and density of businesses and/or residences in Davis Square, and how should the City encourage those changes?

LD: Somerville residents are dedicated to the quirky, independent character of the square and it’s critical to retain that. The Mayor has proposed encouraging local, independent businesses through zoning and I would support that concept. Somervision proposes 6,000 new residential units in the city and the Mayor’s office is calling for 9,000. Much of that will be in new developments outside of Ward 6. Even 9,000 new units alone is not going to solve the affordability crisis in Somerville and I will support other measures to attempt to mitigate the effects of gentrification in our neighborhood and throughout the city. As one of the only neighborhoods currently situated around a transit node, Davis Square has and will continue to see significant development interest and that will include additional density in the Square. It is important that the community have a voice as projects are proposed and that their voices are respectfully taken into account..

a) What do you want to see at 240 Elm Street (the former Social Security Building)? What can you do as an elected official to make sure this building is stabilized and occupied by a business that people in the neighborhood will support and patronize?

LD: 240 Elm Street is the single most pressing issue in Davis Square proper. Like many of my neighbors, I was thrilled when the Brothers Marketplace proposal was announced and very disappointed when I learned it had been pulled. I share the belief that 240 Elm Street should house a business that serves the community and those who make their homes here in Ward 6. If there is a similar alternative to the previous proposal (as has been rumored), I would be inclined to support it, though I truly hope that plans are in place long before the next Ward 6 Alderman takes office. I am encouraged that construction is (finally) moving forward and that the City expects a new facade to be completed (in accordance with the previously approved plans) in the next few months. I expect the City and the current Board of Aldermen to continue to closely monitor the progress and take prompt and decisive action if any additional delays or issues arise. If elected, and in the event that a new tenant has not been identified when I took office, I would attempt to open a direct line of communication with the building owners and would work with the City, my colleagues on the Board, and the community to support and facilitate discussions with potential businesses that reflect the needs of Ward 6..

b) What is your vision for the West Branch Library and what will you do to ensure that the upcoming reconstruction happens and properly serves our community?

LD: I am encouraged by the movement thus far on this project, as well as the strong showing from the community in support of it. The West Branch Library is not only a unique and historic facility in our neighborhood but it is a critical public resource that is in great need of significant investment. The four proposals put forth by the design team at the second public meeting last week reflect the great potential for the West Branch and I will continue to convey to our current officials the need for this project to move forward. If elected, I will fight hard for whatever funding is necessary to support the chosen plan. Given the precious limited community space we have in Ward 6 and the singular opportunity to improve the West Branch presented to us right now, we cannot afford to take half measures..

3) What kinds of changes, if any, would you like to see in the way Davis Square accommodates pedestrians, bicyclists, and vehicular traffic?

LD: First and foremost, Ward 6 needs infrastructure improvements and I will push for completion of the Davis Square Streetscapes Improvement project so that our streets and sidewalks are safe and accessible for all residents, regardless of their means of mobility. Concerns regarding pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure, including the “disappearance” of the Community Path through Davis Square, have been raised for a long time and we need to invest in improvements that allow safe and efficient movement through the Square for all modes of transportation. Traffic backups effect not only the air quality in our neighborhood and our ability to move in and about the Square but they also impact the surrounding neighborhoods, causing additional gridlock and safety concerns as frustrated drivers cut through smaller side streets. Smart traffic design, together with continued investment in infrastructure for bicycle, pedestrian, and other alternative means of transportation are the only way to ensure that Davis Square can continue to thrive as a vibrant neighborhood and business center..

4) What steps would you advocate that the City take to ensure that Somerville residents benefit from the employment opportunities created by development/construction projects that receive public funding support and the businesses that come to occupy those sites? What kinds of incentives will you advocate offering to other businesses that hire Somerville residents?

LD: I believe that the City must hold development/construction companies accountable to ensure not only that proper labor standards are being followed but also that local hiring promises are kept. This not only reflects the values that we should champion as a community but it is in the best interest of the City in ensuring quality services from our contracting partners and quality jobs for our neighbors. On the other side of the equation, we should also increase our investment in jobs training and educational programs so that the people in our community can benefit from new development and the employment opportunities presented by new businesses in the City..

5) If market forces alone shape residential development, we'll likely see a lot more high-end studios, one bedroom, and two bedroom units, that are too small and too expensive for Somerville families with middle-school-age or older children. If these families can't find affordable multi-bedroom housing, they will likely have to leave the city, adversely impacting community stability and our middle and high school systems. What steps will you advocate to ensure preservation and expansion of the supply of family-size housing that is affordable to low and middle-income households?

LD: The availability of family-size housing is one of the biggest concerns I have with current trends in the City. I talk about this every night at the doors. The question says it all. Where once young families left Somerville out of concerns with the school system, now too many who want to stay and benefit from the incredible diversity and strong community in Somerville are being forced out due to rising housing costs. We must recognize this as a significant component of the current affordability crisis and work with developers to encourage the inclusion of family-size units, rather than only pushing for small affordable units countered by additional studio and one-bedroom market rate units. Additionally, I support many of the ideas being considered by the Sustainable Neighborhoods Working Group to make our community more affordable and accessible to current and new resident families, such as the proposed Benevolent Property Owner Tax Credit, as well as other proposals such as expansion of first-time home buyer assistance programs and extension of tax benefits to landlords of longtime tenants..

6) What should the City do to capitalize on the benefits of the Green Line extension, and what should it do to avoid or mitigate the adverse impacts on Ward 6 and other neighborhoods that it passes through?

LD: The Green Line Extension is a critical component of the future, not only of Somerville, but of the metro Boston region. For better or worse, we’ve had significant time to anticipate and prepare for the GLX but that work is far from complete. We need to utilize revised zoning around new transit nodes to channel the development interest that already exists in a way that reflects our community values. The areas around these planned stations represent some of the most vulnerable communities in Somerville. It is imperative that we secure affordable housing solutions in these neighborhoods and support existing local and independent businesses in preparing for the coming changes..

7) What steps will you advocate to make Somerville an even more environment-friendly city? Your answer can address energy use, pollution, waste, water management, greenspaces, trees, etc.

LD: Somerville has committed to being a leader on environmental issues and I would look to continue, and expand, that commitment. I will actively support and encourage measures to meet the City’s goal of being carbon-neutral by 2015. I will encourage the expansion of solar and green roof development in the City. We have a community composting pilot program in the works and a plastic bag ban that is being developed in committee, both of which I fully support. Additionally, Somerville needs to consider significant upgrades to our storm-water management system and plan for the revenue needed for that undertaking. On a more day-to-day level, I will fight to enhance and expand our public parks and open spaces. In a city as densely populated as Somerville, it would be difficult to understate the public health benefit of well-maintained green spaces..

8) What should the City do to reduce the number of drug overdoses by Somerville residents? What can the City do to address problem drinking?

LD: Addiction, and the rise of opiate addiction in particular, is a significant and immediate threat to the health of our community. I support the efforts of the Mayor’s office and the SPD to address this concern and would encourage and support the City in following the model of municipalities like Gloucester, in treating opiate addiction as a health issue, not a criminal matter. Alderman McLaughlin and others should be commended for their tireless efforts in keeping this issue at the forefront of our public conversation and I fully support expansion of our efforts to address this very real threat to our neighbors. In Davis Square we have an active restaurant and nightlife scene that benefits the entire city. I will work with the City and with business owners to make sure that our neighbors don’t bear an undue burden when patrons of these business head back into our neighborhoods..

9) Why are you running for Alderman? What issues or concerned compelled you to run? What would you like to accomplish if elected?

LD: My wife, Amy, and I have lived in Somerville for fourteen years and are raising our two kids here. In some ways, we’ve seen the community change dramatically but Somerville still retains the small-town feel that we fell in love with, and that has drawn so many of our neighbors here. My primary reason for running is that, from my knowledge of and involvement in the community, I understand the concerns facing my neighbors and want to continue to make Somerville a place that people of all statuses and backgrounds can call home. My primary goals include increasing our commitment to quality public schools citywide, enhancing and expanding public open spaces, improving and upgrading the city's infrastructure, and fighting for measures to help address affordability in the housing market. I care deeply about the community, I recognize the importance of prioritizing community, and I will be a strong independent advocate for the residents of Ward 6..

10) What kind of political or community activism have you engaged in over the past few years?

LD: I was one of the leaders of Progress Together for Somerville because I saw the need to protect and strengthen the Somerville Public School system. I am a member of the PTA and volunteer regularly at the Brown School, where my children attend. My wife and I also serve on the Honorary Committee for the Somerville Homeless Coalition Gala and I’ve coached both my son’s and daughter’s soccer teams with Somerville Youth Soccer Association. I have publicly supported the Fight for $15, including talking with workers at Assembly Row this summer. I regularly participate in public meetings and visioning processes and I’ve always supported candidates who fight for progressive values, including Rebekah Gewirtz, Carl Sciortino, Pat Jehlen, and Denise Provost. As Alderman, I will continue to fight for our shared progressive values and work to protect the most vulnerable communities in our city..

11) What else about your candidacy makes you a logical choice for a progressive voter?

LD: I have been endorsed by many progressive individuals and organizations that have fought for progressive ideals, and I commit to doing the same. The individuals endorsing me include Rebekah Gewirtz, current Ward 6 Alderman, Joe Curtatone, Mayor of Somerville, Jack Connolly, current Alderman-at-Large, Gene Brune, former Mayor of Somerville, and Denise Provost, State Representative. I also am proud to have the endorsements of the Greater Boston Labor Council, SEIU Local 888, the Somerville Municipal Employees Association, UFCW Local 1445, and Teamsters Local 25.